As part of the proposals, production would be moved from the factory near Newcastle to other sites in the UK and Europe – including the Czech Republic, according to the unions. The planned closure would see 475 jobs at risk at the Fawdon site, as well as a further 98 at the York factory.
GMB and Unite slammed the plans for the increase in food miles it would create, which they claimed contradicted the sustainability message the manufacturer was trying to share at the height of COP26 – Nestlé was on hand demoing it's Vegan Fruit Pastilles.
Ross Murdoch, GMB national officer, said: “Our members are disgusted Nestlé would use products they make to boost its green credentials – while planning behind the scenes to move their jobs to Eastern Europe”.
'Bad news for UK manufacturing'
“It’s crass, underhanded and insensitive. Moving production to the Czech Republic is clearly bad news for UK manufacturing; so much for Brexit retaining jobs and bringing jobs home.”
Nestlé announced plans to close the Fawdon site in April this year, with production moved to other existing factories in the UK and Europe. The manufacturer cited a need to reduce complexity across the business as the key driver behind the proposal.
To facilitate the move, a £20.2m investment at its York factory to modernise and increase production of KitKat and a further £9.2m investment at Halifax to "build on its existing expertise and equip the factory to take on the largest portion of Fawdon’s current production".
After these proposed changes the majority of Nestlé Confectionery’s UK portfolio would continue to be manufactured in the UK. The UK would remain the largest manufacturer of Nestlé’s confectionery in Europe if these proposals go ahead.
European trade unionist Peter Schmidt added: “It is not acceptable at all that Nestlé wants to destroy 475 livelihoods while making the highest profit ever in their history just to make more money.
“In doing this they even increase their environmental footprint, not reduce it. At the same time, they want to give the impression to the public that they would be on a sustainable path towards climate neutrality.”
Meanwhile, Weetabix has continued to dismiss claims it is using ‘fire and rehire’ tactics in its ongoing pay dispute with workers union Unite and has levelled criticism on the union using the situation to support its unrelated national campaign against similar employment practices.
The cereal manufacturer has been in dispute with the union since September over new pay terms at its Kettering and Corby factories that Unite claimed would see engineers losing out on £5,000 a year in wages.